Gender Dysphoria


Full paper:…/10.1177/13623613211039113

Nothing about us without us
Who: Cooper and colleagues
Journal: Autism
Published: 2021
Title: The lived experience of gender dysphoria in autistic adults: An interpretative phenomenological analysis

Autistic Adults & Gender Dysphoria

Autistic people are more likely to be transgender or non-binary than neurotypical people.

Some people who are transgender or non-binary experience gender dysphoria, which is distress due to ones sex and gender not matching.


This study wanted to look into this experience of dysphoria, so they spoke to 21 autistic adults who experienced dysphoria. 6 people were non-binary and 15 were transgender, and 20 were white and 1 person was mixed race.

They found a number of “themes” which were experienced by at least half of the participants.

Making sense of distress & finding identity

All participants experienced distress around their body not matching their gender, but many struggled to articulate this.

“It’s really hard to explain. I find it hard identifying which emotion I’m feeling. Everything just feels like stress – everything.”


Making sense of distress & finding identity

Many also experienced distress around not understanding their identities, and spent a lot of time trying to understand themselves, both in terms of gender and autistic identity.

Many people also experienced a clash between their autistic needs & their gender, describing “sensory dysphoria”, and describing their being autistic as increasing the impact of dysphoria.

“I felt fairly numb, numb and empty, and just not really connected with my body at all.”

They also described a difficulty with wanting to engage with medical transition but struggling with the changes and how unpredictable they can be.


Mismatch between needs as an autistic trans person & society

Some participants felt that gender was one of many social expectations that they did not understand; some enjoyed their non-conformity. Some felt oppressed by gender norms.

They described struggling in a society where being trans and being autistic can be perceived negatively by others, & described ostracization and social isolation. Some described feelings of shame due to how they were perceived by others.

“After I came out, I was temporarily homeless”

They also had to battle for support, finding significant difficulties with accessing gender identity clinic, due to gatekeeping by professionals and due to the sensory environment of the clinics.

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